COVID-19 By The Numbers

Let’s look at some numbers just to get a sense of COVID-19’s possible effects. This is not a prediction or an attempt to find precise numbers. Just something to wrap your mind around.

United States population: 329,000,000 (US census)

Number of deaths in 2017: 2,814,000 (CDC)

Deaths from influenza and pneumonia: 55,672 (CDC)

Cases of influenza: 9,300,000 to 45,000,000 (CDC)

That’s a wide uncertainty, no doubt because not everyone who has influenza goes to the doctor, much less is tested.

The numbers of cases of influenza are kept down by vaccinations and immunity in people who have had a similar strain of influenza in the past. COVID-19 has no such mitigating factors, which is why limiting people’s movement becomes important.

Don’t bother to try to make the numbers of deaths from influenza and pneumonia fit neatly with the cases of influenza. My purpose in this post is to provide a general sense of how COVID-19 might affect the United States and give some numbers for you to make sense of.

Right now, the death rate for influenza is generally agreed to be about 0.1%. For COVID-19, it’s about 2%.

If there are as many cases of COVID-19 as there are of influenza, that gives 186,000 to 900,000 deaths. That’s compared to 56,000 for influenza. Heart disease kills about 650,000 people a year, cancer 600,000 (CDC). And, without a vaccine or immunity from earlier infections, those numbers could be larger.


Thinking About Deterrence

I have always been suspicious of arguments about nuclear deterrence. After the Soviet Union broke up, it seemed to me that those arguments needed to be redrawn, since they had been based on the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. Nobody’s done that.

Back in the 1960s, Robert McNamara recognized that nuclear deterrence could easily deteriorate into a comparison of weapons. That’s what’s happened in the justifications for the lower-yield nuclear weapons introduced to nuclear submarines. That’s all the justification that’s been made. That’s not deterrence.

So I wrote a piece about that, and Foreign Policy published it. There’s another little piece that didn’t quite fit, that Inkstick Media published. All the talk about “restoring deterrence” vis-à-vis Iran is nonsense.

So please read those two.

John le Carré And The Passage Of Time

At a particular point in my youth, I tried to understand various durations of time by thinking back in history. That point was between about 1955 and 1965. I would think about the Civil War a century before, or fifty years back to before the First World War. I still do it to put perspective into the movement of history.

The Second World War had ended only ten to twenty years earlier. Because that was before my memories began, it seemed like a long time. Now ten to twenty years goes back only to the financial crash, or to 9/11. The end of the Soviet Union, a definitional event in my life, now extends back 30 years. In my earlier calibration, that would be before the Great Depression, which had made a permanent imprint on my parents, which they strove to pass on to their kids. Read More